Hutch News Stories

The Herbolds' gift to 'monumental' computing power

Bob and Pat Herbold give $1.5 million to new computational biology, bioinformatics program
Bob and Pat Herbold
The Herbolds' gift was inspired by their personal experience with cancer and their appreciation for how computational biology promises to advance early cancer detection. Photo courtesy of Bob and Pat Herbold

Their resumes reflect a lifetime of leadership and achievement in law, business and politics, yet Pat and Bob Herbold's $1.5 million gift to the Hutchinson Center reflects the couple's solid academic foundation in science. As they learn more about the Center's vision of combining biology and technology to beat cancer, the Herbolds can visualize the possibilities … and the payoff. With their recent gift to the Hutchinson Center's new Program in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics — now known as the Herbold Computational Biology Program — the Herbolds are making a major contribution to a promising new arena of medical research.

"Early detection is critical in cancer treatment and it looks like computational analysis and modeling of the molecular basis of human blood and tissue may yield new approaches to identify early cancer activity," Bob said. "Now that's a big deal!"

The Herbolds both studied science in college — Bob has degrees in math and computer science while Pat has a degree in chemistry — yet ultimately they pursued careers outside the lab.

"The work they're doing at the Hutchinson Center is cutting-edge and very exciting," Pat said. "If I had stayed in science, it's the kind of thing I would have loved doing."

Bob is the former executive vice president and chief operating officer at Microsoft, where he worked from 1994 until 2003. Before that, he spent 26 years at Procter & Gamble, rising to senior vice president of advertising and information services. As managing director of Herbold Group LLC, he currently consults on eliminating bureaucracy and improving profitability. He recently authored a book (published by Doubleday) titled "The Fiefdom Syndrome," which focuses on the turf battles that undermine careers and companies, and how to overcome them. He also serves on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Pat worked as a chemist before returning to school to earn a law degree and spent many years as vice president and chief counsel for Bank One. She has been a prosecuting attorney, city council member and mayor in suburban Cincinnati, and recently was appointed U.S. ambassador to Singapore.

"We have been very blessed with financial success, and we feel that sharing that success in whatever ways we can is something that we want to do," Pat said. "Computational biology and bioinformatics has the potential to take the work they're doing at the Hutchinson Center to a whole new level."

Computational biology and bioinformatics are two distinct yet related responses to the same problem — how to process the enormous number of variables involved in searching for the molecular clues to cancer. Bioinformatics involves developing the tools needed to analyze massive amounts of data from biological experiments. Computational biology involves the use of mathematics and statistics to generate new data based on experiments that incorporate existing data, a process that saves both time and money over "wet lab" investigations.

The Herbolds' support will help the Center build one of the best computational biology programs in the world, said Dr. Lee Hartwell, Center president and director. "It provides critical resources to accelerate the development of the program's infrastructure and helps us recruit and retain the best and brightest minds in the field."

The Herbolds were inspired to support the Hutchinson Center by their personal experiences with cancer — both of Bob's parents died of the disease as did Pat's mother — as well as by their appreciation for the breakthroughs in cancer diagnosis, prevention and treatment that are on the horizon. Their gift will help fund the human and technological resources needed to exploit the opportunities presented by the ongoing exploration of the human genome, human proteome and other molecular research.

"The sheer size of the analysis of DNA to correlate it with cancer activity requires computers of monumental capabilities," Bob said. "But with computing power continually advancing, that's going to get nothing but easier over time."

The Herbolds can't think of a better way to advance those causes than supporting the Hutchinson Center. "The thing that impresses us most about the Center," Bob said, "is the talent of the people and their clear, clear focus on the goals of the organization."

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